I can still remember that when we started to serve in our church, an elder in Christ wrote a letter to us. He said, “After you served for a while, you may discover that the greatest hurt comes not from the non-believers, not from those opposed to Christianity, but from the brothers and sisters who are dearest to you…”
I vaguely remember my feeling at that time. I read these totally illogical words over and over again; and the more I read, the more I did not comprehend its meaning. But now, after many years’ experience serving in the church, I must confess that the advise from this elder, who loved us dearly and was concerned that one day we may get loss from disappointment, has come to pass.
I often ask myself, “Should we not ‘speak the truth in love’ among brothers and sisters?” Why is it that the consequence of speaking out the truth often ran counter to our expectations? As co-workers, should we not work together for the sake of the gospel? Why do they have the feeling that ‘my understanding and insight are above everything’?”
Someone has said that our background is what prevented us from working together. Someone else said that whether we can ‘speak the truth in love’ depends on the maturity of our spiritual life. Someone even proclaimed that ‘speaking the truth in love’ is just an ideal; in practice, one should modify one’s speech in accordance to our audience.
My confusion is that over the years, if I only experienced others’ hurt on myself, I may still be at peace. However, I have to admit that just the opposite, I have left painful memories in other people’s lives. Those hurts are something I do not have the courage to face and deal with it head on. It is as if I have been waiting for a miracle or a breakthrough.
For a long time I could not understand whether I have a mistaken belief, or may be my belief is correct, but I lack the application skill. That is until one day, a sister asked me, “Russell could write the book ‘Confessions’; how about you?” Without even thinking, I uttered, “I dared not.” I was shocked as soon as I finished the sentence! Rather than being stimulated by the sister’s question, I was in shock because of my answer. What am I afraid of? Was it because I did not want God to know what kind of a person I am? Or was it because I am afraid that my aura of spirituality will be damaged? Or was it because I could not accept my true self under the illumination of the Holy Spirit?
All of a sudden I realized that, for many years past, my many hurts came from other’s challenge to my ‘false self’, and my hurting others came from my own defense of the image of my ‘false self’. I have admired how Paul could live a life to the fullest, yet I permitted myself to ‘be transformed by renewing of my mind’ in falsehood. Suddenly I realized: how could someone who cannot honestly face oneself ‘speak the truth in love’? How can God have fellowship with a hypocrite?
So one of my bold New Years’ resolutions is to honestly face myself in the presence of God, in the presence of brothers and sisters, and to honestly face myself. I believe that only under the condition that I honestly face myself would I have unconditional acceptance of others, have compassion with others, and be less demanding and more understanding.
When I work with brothers and sisters on any project, I would not give an impression that my thought, my speech, and my deeds are all inconsistent. I would not give others pain that while they know my face and my deeds, they fail to know the true me. When I speak the truth in love, I would not insist that they accept my goodwill, but would accept them unconditionally according to who they really are. Before I request others to open up to me, I must open up myself to God and accept who I am. The price of opening up may be a deeper hurt, or even being deceived; but I trust that “You have put gladness in my heart, more than they have when their grain and their new wine are increased.” (Ps. 4:7)
“But if I stagger and lose my way, you must help me, you must keep me on the true path, just as I am ready to support you. Do not mislead me, do not be glad that I have gotten lost, do not shout out joyfully: ‘Look at him! He said he was going home, but there he is crawling into a bog!’ No, do not gloat, but give me your help and support.” (from Philip Yancey, Soul Survivor, pp.130-131) This calling coming deep from the soul of Tolstoy generates a great jolt in my life. The truth is, no matter how much our brothers and sisters struggle in their walk, we are all walking home on the same path; and that is: we all have a thirst in the depth of our hearts for others’ helping hand and support!
The author came from the city of Xi-an, currently residing in Toronto.